Awareness, presence, balance and stillness are all words we associate with mindfulness. However, life is full of challenges and stressful situations, so how does mindfulness stack up when you need it the most?
Written by Kate Zourkas
I have used mindfulness to get me through some pretty challenging and stressful situations and I can talk from my experience when I say that it has helped me physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually get through some of the toughest times in my life. Being mindful has helped me be resilient and as the world is increasingly uncertain and divided, it is even more important to go inside ourselves and build our own inner resilience.
Mindfulness is a tool that I use to help me build resilience, it helps me handle stress and change and helps me to flow through challenging situations rather than getting caught up in them. I have trained myself through mindfulness to focus on myself, my inner world and to channel my energy towards what I want to achieve through challenges.
Stress and change form part of modern lives, they are not going away, and if anything they are intensifying and taking a toll on our overall wellbeing. As individuals how we manage this stress is becoming increasingly more important and we need to find ways to be more resilient to challenges and daily stressors. I have found that this is where mindfulness steps in. Like happiness resilience is an inside job, we need to seek resilience from within ourselves. The truth is that no one else can be resilient for us, we need to build it ourselves and sometimes it can be really hard to persevere through adversity. But there are support tools like mindfulness available, personally, mindfulness has helped me shine through darkness.
Mindfulness can support you by:
- Helping you focus on the present moment
- Increases your level of awareness and consciousness
- Provides focus and clarity through adversity
- Supports mental perseverance
- Helps you to balance and calm the mind
- Supports the healing process. Challenges and stress take a toll on us and can emotionally and mentally knock us down. Going through a healing process can help you deal with the damage from the stress you have gone through and heal the situation so that you can move on.
- Mindfulness supports in managing your emotions. When you go through stress it is likely you will experience a range of emotions. Mindfulness will help keep things in perspective and bring you back into a balanced state. You will still get emotional but you will be more in control.
Here are 3 ways you can be mindful during challenges and build your resilience:
1. Focus on the present and what is in front of you. Don't get too caught up in the whole situation. Ask yourself what do I need to do today and just focus on what is in front of you. You can become easily overwhelmed and stressed if you focus on the whole situation, break it down and just focus on what you need to achieve in the present moment.
2. Be grateful. Keep a positive mindset and focus on what you are grateful for. This will help keep things in perspective and help you persevere. Coming from a place of gratitude also removes your ego from the situation as you are responding from your authentic self. Our ego's can sometimes make situations harder than they need to be and hinder us from progressing through adversity.
3. Start your own daily mindful activity to increase your own awareness. Those who have been through stress will agree that stress is exhausting, so start a daily mindful routine to help restore your energy. Invest in your own mental wellbeing through mindful activities, examples include; yoga, meditation, nature walks, art/drawing, listening to music or journaling. Mindfulness never takes time, it gives time. If there is one tip I can leave you with it is learning how to use your breath. Take 5 minutes a day to focus on deep breathing or when you are in a stressful situation take a few moments to just breathe, it will calm you down.
It is a fact that stress is harmful to our health and our lives are full of stress. Therefore building resilience will help you manage stress and challenging situations better. But it does take some investment from you, resilience is an inside job.
We can all practice mindfulness and for some of us (like me), it might take a lot of practice but it is a great support tool to use when you are going through challenging times. And after a while, it will become part of your natural response to stress and you will be more resilient to life's challenges.
Written by Theodora Zourkas
On any given day the news is full of examples of ego doing its thing. The US elections have seen the rise of Donald Trump who continues to spread fear, and the appalling behaviour of the US Republican Party who keep rejecting the gun laws. While our own elections are perhaps not as colourful, we have now entered the last few weeks where fear is being ‘shovelled out’ as an election strategy. This weekend we are also seeing the immediate aftermath of the Brexit results, a perfect example of ego doing what it does best – more fear.
What is the ego? The easiest way I understand the ego is that it’s like Iago from Shakespeare’s play Othello. Iago is Othello’s ‘trusted’ advisor who keeps whispering in Othello’s ear that his wife is unfaithful to him, until finally Othello kills his innocent wife. Like Iago, our ego is whispering in our ear all the time.
All of us are composed of light and shadow and the ego is our shadow side. Our ego always points out the negative. It’s the little voice that whispers, “they are trying to rip you off”, “you are not good enough to do that,” “you’re better than them”, “why should they have a nice car you’re entitled to that,” “immigrants are taking all the jobs”. The ego lives and breathes fear.
Our ego can paralyse us from doing what we know is right. When you are in the clutches of your ego you come up with lots of justifications why you don’t do what is right. We mistakenly call this pride. You know the “I can never forgive them for what they did to me!” scenario. Well the only person who suffers in this scenario is YOU. Your ego is happy because it keeps stoking the fires of resentment and anger and all you gain is bitterness, unhappiness, it can detrimentally impact your health and you become boring to your friends as you keep talking about the same thing over and over.
That’s why they say that when you forgive someone, it releases you from holding onto the negative energy that came out of that particular situation. You don’t have to forget what happened, you just accept the lesson and forget the rest. This however is the opposite of what your ego wants, because this approach empowers you and disempowers your ego.
The ego makes the situation all about you and you have to ‘win’. Continuing down this path however ultimately backs you into a corner with nowhere to move. And when you are backed into a corner the ego tells you “you didn’t get enough support”, “they lied”, “they’re jealous of you.”
It’s always someone else’s fault.
We have so much opportunity to be the best version of ourselves and grow. Yes the world is a scary place at the moment but this is the time for all of us to step up and show compassion, forgiveness and acceptance. You see, being ‘me focussed’ is living life from ego. Living a life from ego does not enable you to be the best version of yourself. Wouldn’t it serve you better to be aware when it’s your ego whispering?
We can’t get rid of our ego as it is part of us. But, we do have free will and always the choice to act in the light or shadow. There are two things we can do that give us power over our ego:
1. Take responsibility for our behaviour
2. Consider the situation from the other person’s perspective
I have been practicing these two things to help me to focus my energy on being the best version of me, and I have to say I’m feeling more empowered.
The only way we can fight fear and change the world is to start with ourselves.
Love and light
Written by Kate Zourkas
I am a yoga teacher and to become a yoga teacher you are asked to meditate and work on your own practice so that you can then teach and guide others. Therefore, mindfulness and meditation forms a large part of my personal practice as well as yoga classes I teach, and personally I have seen some really good results.
I have been researching lately on the return of investment of mindfulness and meditation and how it is being used in the corporate environment. Many organisations in the USA have regular meditation classes or quiet rooms available for their employees and they have only positive things to say about the programs that they have introduced. Companies like Google have really embraced the mindfulness movement and I think other organisations will follow quite quickly as it is becoming more mainstream and there are clear benefits linked to return on investment.
This has made me really think about what is the return on investment for mindfulness and meditation? And I have come to the conclusion that I can only really talk about it from my own personal experience and the actions that I have taken to improve my mindfulness and the benefits that I have seen firsthand. To me, people generally don’t start on their mindfulness journey to become better leaders or employees, they do it for themselves and to improve their own personal awareness and create their own versions of inner peace.
The three mindfulness actions that I have taken are:
What is my own personal return on investment?
· Increased time because I stopped filling my life with noise (mental chatter takes up a lot of time and energy and is very stressful)
· Increased productivity
· Increased focus, clarity and decision making
· Feeling centred and balanced through most situations. I view stress differently and I feel more like an observer rather than a participant of stress
· Increased presence; when I am home I am present, when I am working I am present. I Focus on what is in front of me
· I have learnt to let go of things quickly, if I do get angry or stressed I get over it faster and move on
· Increased self-esteem and self-empowerment. I feel good about myself and to me this is priceless and where I have had the most benefit. Feeling good about yourself will open doors and opportunities beyond your wildest imagination. We are all awesome in our own way and we just need to open ourselves up beyond the noise and see it for ourselves.
Theodora Zourkas and Kate Zourkas are the Directors of Zourkas Group and authors of 'Finding Your Inner Resilience'. Theodora and Kate have a passion for creating greatness in others and living from the heart. They are experts in change management, organisation development and strategy, capability development, resilience and personal development.